January 27, 2012
On January 25th, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Obama Administration has increased the maximum cash recovery for claims from Latino and female farmers and ranchers discriminated against when seeking USDA loans. Now, Latino and female farmers claiming discrimination in the USDA loan process between 1981 and 2000 are eligible to receive up to $250,000, rather than the $50,000 cap that had previously been in place, in cash recovery.
Through a streamlined administrative process, claimants can apply, without cost, for remunerations rather than pursue the matter in court. According to the USDA news release, “the voluntary claims process will make available at least $1.33 billion for cash awards and tax relief payments, plus up to $160 million in farm debt relief, to eligible Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers.”
Reactions to the announcement were ambivalent. Both the Rural Coalition and National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association praised the Obama Administration for upholding its promise to provide equal access to USDA programs to minorities. Yet some feel the updated claims process announced yesterday does not parallel similar programs created for African American and Native American farmers. Regardless of reactions, the increased claims amount marks an important step in resolving USDA discrimination suits.
NSAC and its allies support equity and justice for underserved and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers when accessing federal agriculture programs, including important loan programs offered by the Farm Service Agency. In December 2011, NSAC joined with the Rural Coalition, along with many other allied organizations, on a letter to President Obama, and urged his administration to strive toward a more equitable claims process for Latino and women producers.
To read more about the revised claims process, click here to see the USDA press release.